Once your child turns 3, you can get free childcare with a registered childminder or nursery.
The free childcare is for:
- 15 hours a week during term time if you’re not working
- 30 hours a week during term time if you’re working and earning (on average) £152 a week or more. Not all childcare providers offer 30 hours free childcare, so check before you apply.
If you’re working and claiming Universal Credit, you can use a combination of free childcare and Universal Credit childcare payments (which cover up to 85% of your childcare costs).
There will be changes to the free childcare system over the next few years.
- From September 2024, all children 9 months and older will be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week.
- From September 2025, working parents with children under 5 will be entitled to 30 free hours of childcare a week.
Example for a 3-year-old using the 30-hours scheme
Dave is a single dad with 3-year-old twins Bobby and Tanya. Dave’s nursery offers 30 hours free childcare during term time. And Dave is claiming Universal Credit, as he’s a care assistant and only earns £120 a week. Dave decides to work more each week now that the twins are 3 and the nursery says they can have full-time places.
Dave needs childcare for 50 hours per week, all year round. This is more than the 30 hours the term-time scheme offers, so he needs to top up the hours so his twins can be at nursery for longer.
To pay for the extra childcare he needs, he claims the childcare element of Universal Credit. This covers 85% of the nursery fees that aren’t part of the 30 hours scheme. Dave pays the other 15% from his wages.
Dave’s nursery charges £306 a month for the childcare hours that aren’t covered by the 30 hours scheme. Dave pays the bill each month, and then gets £260.10 through the childcare element in his Universal Credit payment the month after. The final 15% comes to £45.90, which Dave pays from his wages.
Example for a 3-year-old using the 15-hours scheme
Dave’s friend Nicky has a 3-year-old too. Her nursery only offers 15 hours a week of free childcare. But they’ve offered her a full-time place which means she can work more hours.
Nicky decides to take the full-time childcare place. She gets Universal Credit, so decides to claim 85% of her childcare costs through the childcare element.
Once the nursery has applied the 15 free hours to her bill, she will have to pay £530 each month. She can get £450.50 each month through the childcare element of Universal Credit. So she pays the other £79.50 from her wages each month.